Screw Digital Natives

Screw Digital Natives

Behaviour not age, is what matters.

The terms digital natives and digital immigrants have been widely used to describe how a person uses digital technologies but as we have learned and observed in libraries these terms are simplistic and often misleading.

A person’s ability and willingness to engage with digital technologies and participate online has nothing to do with age.

In 2011 David White and Alison Le Cornu proposed an alternative model to better understand an individual’s engagement with digital spaces. This model called Visitors and Residents suggests our willingness to engage with digital technologies and participate online depends on our needs and motivations rather than technical ability or age.

The Visitors and Residents model is best described as a continuum, with Visitors at one end and Residents at the other.

When in visitor mode, individuals have a defined goal or task and select an appropriate online tool to meet their needs. There is very little in terms of social visibility or trace when online in visitor mode.

When in resident mode the individual is going online to connect to, or to be with, other people. This mode is about social presence.

The video (7:07) below describes visitor and resident modes in more detail.

The Visitors and Residents model can be used to map our own use of digital services, tools and spaces and if completed as a team can be used to better understand, support and engage the people we work with.

The Visitors and Residents map focuses on a person’s digital behaviour rather than their technical ability and provides a great opportunity to start conversations about issues, norms and habits of mind (rather than skills).

Below is my map of how I behave online.

My Digital Use

What I find really interesting about my map is there is almost nothing in the Personal Resident quadrant. It shows that I engage a lot online in a professional sense as both a visitor and resident but when it comes to personal use I only want to engage on a transactional basis so I can spend my personal time offline.

My map also shows that I lurk, broadcast or use (visitor) a number of digital tools and spaces but actively converse or participate (resident) in very few of them. It is also easy to see where I have no digital presence; Instagram and Tumblr being two examples that don’t feature on my map at all.


What would your digital behaviour map look like?

If you are interested in creating your own digital behaviour map I used the video (10:33) below as a guideline and then looked at some examples of visitor and resident maps on Flickr.


Further Reading:

Bob R-S. (2014, February 14). Mapping the visitors and residents [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Clark, I. (2015, July 16). Visitors and residents: understanding digital behaviours [Web log message]. Retrieved from

JISC. (2014, May 7). Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach. Retrieved 11 December 2015, from

Potter, N. (2015, July 13). Visitors and residents: useful social media in libraries [Web log message]. Retrieved from

White, D. (2013, June 5). Visitors and residents mapping process: the video [Web log message]. Retrieved from

White, D. (n.d.). Visitors & residents [Web log message]. Retrieved from

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